(Silly Bridge to Bridgetown)


WHERE IS IT?: The River Exe runs from northern Exmoor (Somerset) south to Exeter (Devon), flowing through a large estuary to Exmouth.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: The most convenient launch spot is the wonderfully named Silly Bridge (SS 832396). Alternatively, launching at the ford at SS 843390 avoids the rather chossy first kilometre, but there is no parking.

Take out below the bridge in Bridgetown (SS 923332) on river left, there is parking in a lay-by a hundred metres south along the A396.

Map. Landranger 181.


TIME NEEDED: 3 hours+.


WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Only moderate amounts of rain are needed to bring this into condition. Spate levels would be dangerous due to downed trees.

Check the river at the road bridge in Exford. All the stones in the riverbed should be covered.


MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Trees. One weir.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: High up in the National Park to which it lends its name, the Exe is still a sizeable river. This section offers constant easy whitewater and a smattering of adventure.

Below Silly Bridge, the trip gets off to an unpromising start; tree branches encroach, a couple of wire strands need to be ducked (made safer by blue piping, at least) and a sheep fence needs portaging.

Allcombe Water increases the flow from river left and the Exe cleans up and widens considerably. The whitewater interest henceforth consists of small waves and riffles interspersed by occasional simple ledges and sloping reefs; whilst the technical challenge is not great, it is continuous.

Just after passing beneath the bridge in Exford, look out for an odd metal footbridge which spans the river between canalised banks. In low levels this will be simple to portage over, in higher levels it will be underwater.

Between Exford and Winsford, the Exe winds away from the road, the hills draw closer and the gradient increases slightly. The current is swift, be alert for tree hazards. There were a surprising number of downed trees in spring 2013, a result of that winter’s notable floods. Most could be dodged or ducked, only a handful of short portages were necessary.

After civilisation is rejoined at Winsford, the whitewater interest lessens but the current keeps you moving all the way down to the confluence with the River Quarme; shortly after this joins from river left is a large sloping weir that shouldn’t cause you many problems unless the river is very high. Bridgetown is just below.

You now have the option of finishing or continuing down the next section.

OTHER NOTES: Unlike the equivalent upper reaches of the nearby River Barle, the surroundings are rural and hence there is less of a ‘wilderness’ feel. 

CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley.